Past meets future as Brainerd's railroad heritage enjoys a transformation.
Not long ago the old Brainerd shops of the Northern Pacific Railroad in east Brainerd existed in an extensive acreage relegated to a crumbling infrastructure and cooing pigeons. It was an architectural echo where the daily whistles and booted feet of hundreds of railroad workers was easy to envision even as those days were buried in the city's history.
Now the new Northern Pacific Center is part of the city's future.
Rick Fargo, Positive Property Management, said of 250,000 square feet of rentable space, almost 70 percent is rented. The 22 tenants, from small business to large enterprises, are installed in renovated buildings where locomotives were once repaired. Tenants provide work for nearly 100 employees.
On the National Historic Register, care was taken to restore woodwork and French doors over a threshold that railroad magnates once crossed.
Fargo said the Northern Pacific Center is looking at completing clean-up of areas formerly identified by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency this spring. A $29,325 grant from the Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development to the city of Brainerd is helping look for possible contaminants on the property's east side in an effort to clear the way for more development.
"Everybody's been really working with us to put it all together," Fargo said, crediting the city of Brainerd's staff with additional assistance.
The site, with a main access on 13th Street Northeast, covers about 47 acres. About half of that land to the east could be opened up for additional development for commercial and industrial aspects. Even residential housing has been in discussion. The shop's site currently borders residential areas.
Fargo said they are looking at working with the city to develop water, sewer and roads on the eastern section of the property.
A warren of rooms, the Northern Pacific Center clock tower building includes a renovated conference room complete with transom doors. Working with a state grant through the city of Brainerd, the center is looking to expand building room on the east side of the 47-acre site.
On the National Historic Register, the Northern Pacific Center is owned by Dave Hutton, a Twin Cities lawyer, and Richard Crandall, a Twin Cities engineer with ties to Brainerd.
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